Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Oct 8, 2008 03:21 PM

Thanksgiving: Instead of brining, can I yogurt my turkey?

I make chicken pieces (usually thighs and drums) marinated overnight in yogurt with various spices on a weekly basis. I throw it in a ziploc in the refrigerator for about 24 hours. I tend to cook it at 375 for 45 minutes. It is moist, flavorful, and juicy. In short, excellent chicken.

My questions is thus, can I marinate a whole turkey in yogurt? Will it have the same effect on a turkey as brining? Will it keep it moist? What if I make a brine solution but use yogurt instead of water?

I would love to try this (and may do a test run with a breast but it isn't the same). Any theories? Is it just a dumb idea?

(BTW: My turkey will be about 16 lbs this year, fresh killed, never frozen, not stuffed, and started on a high heat for first 30 minutes and then switched to a low heat --325 or so).

So looking forward to your thoughts!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Yes, you can marinate an entire turkey in yogurt.
    No, it will not have the same affect as brining. Brining involves osmosis (H2O seeks to equalize in adjacent divergent environments) so, unless you actually prepare a brining concoction using yogurt in place or or combined with water and salt, you ain't gonna get a brine.
    It is likely to be as moist as the chicken you have experience with.
    It's not a dumb idea; no reasonable cooking experiment is a dumb idea (unless you want to do something like smoked jelly beans) so if you feel like trying it - you have after all been successful with chicken - go for it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: todao

      Smoke jelly beans, that sounds like a great idea to me!

    2. I think you'd have better luck with buttermilk because of the size, with similar results. Dairy can tenderize the meat. This might be helpful. It was posted here awhile ago:

      1. The intact turkey skin and frame will not permit the same effect. These methods work best with jointed meat that has flesh directly exposed (and even better with skinned, boneless meat, but then you lose all the benefits of the skin and bones, so it's a toss up at that point).

        6 Replies
        1. re: Karl S

          I almost always use skinned, bone-in chicken and pierce it multiple times so the yogurt can really get in. So am I really back to brining? It certainly isn't a bad option but I just thought if I could switch it up, maybe I'd give it a shot.

          1. re: Super Salad

            Unless you turn the meat into Swiss cheese, you're just NOT going to get even 1/10 the penetration of flavor and moistness from yogurt or buttermilk as a real salt and water and flavorant solution. Yogurt and buttermilk coat meat, not penetrate it to any significant degree. Brines penetrate the meat. Basic chemisty. Besides, who can afford that much yogurt or buttermilk? We're not talking pints here...

            1. re: KiltedCook

              What about a marinade that has buttermilk? Something along these lines:


              Or possibly using buttermilk powder in the marinade? It would be far less expensive but I don't know the chemistry behind why dairy tenderizes meat so don't know if powder would work the same.

              1. re: chowser

                Buttermilk doesn't really tenderize meat, any more than other acids. But it's great for coating.

                What tenderizes meat is alkali - that's how the Chinese "velvetize" meat - but a little goes a long way, and has to be done quickly.

                1. re: Karl S

                  The article I posted above by Shirley Corriher says that buttermilk and yogurt both tenderize the meat. She says it's possibly the calcium in the dairy products.